Watching Washington, October 2018: From operating plans to marketing to pricing, change is relentless in railroading. Where railroaders once every five years looked with suspicion at all aspects of their system, and made substantial changes after 10, scientific advances, new processes and innovative applications propelled by unremitting competition have put the transformation process on steroids.
Author: Frank N. Wilner
News item: Ian Jefferies, 42, currently Senior vice President for Government Affairs at the Association of American Railroads (AAR), will succeed Ed Hamberger as President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2019. Most notably, Jefferies will serve as the railroad industry’s chief congressional lobbyist and spokesperson.
Watching Washington, September 2018: If two congressional directives are not aptly labeled “Cheech and Chong Provisions,” why is their sum “420” and their consequence a seeming hallucinatory decade-long cavort through the federal court system whose clashing opinions have pinged and ponged as if a Super Mario arcade game?
Watching Washington, August 2018: Human life is measured in scores of years, stars in billions of miles, the national debt in trillions of dollars—all remarkably miniscule numbers compared to the petabytes of data (numbers containing 15 zeroes) generated by artificial intelligence in our increasingly knowledge-based society.
Amtrak is on notice by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that should it discriminate against other railroads sharing access to Amtrak’s wholly owned Chicago Union Station (CUS), it could face regulatory discipline.
If ever there were a human equivalent to liver and onions—hated or loved, but no in-between—it was the late Ewing Hunter Harrison III, a chief executive of four major North American railroads, personally synonymous with the term “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” and whose mention invokes often disquieting debate on theories of management and how best to deliver shareholder value in the short- and long-term.
Watching Washington, July 2018: When everybody owns something, nobody accepts accountability or responsibility. Such is the circumstance of Amtrak, a near-50-year-old orphan wandering in a public policy wilderness, dependent on grudgingly provided public assistance often provided with conditions and objectives so conflicted as to suggest a Marx Brothers comedy.
Martin J. (Marty) Oberman, 73, an attorney and perennial fixture in Chicago and Illinois Democratic politics, is President Trump’s choice to fill a vacant Democratic seat on the five-member Surface Transportation Board (STB). He must be confirmed by the Senate.
For railroaders this summer, a cerebral repast beckons in the form of two new books illuminating the careers of legendary CEOs.
Amidst extravagant accusations of inhospitable dispatching by host freight railroads of its long-distance passenger trains, taxpayer subsidized Amtrak is aggressively manipulating its privileged position in contravention of a congressional intent to expand private-sector operation of passenger trains. Amtrak’s strong-arm tactics also serve to squeeze monopoly rents from state and regional transit authorities, whose commuter trains share Amtrak-owned facilities.